Implications of Palliative Care Consultation Timing among a Cohort of Hospice Decedents

Samuel G Robbins, Amber J Hackstadt, Sara Martin, Myrick C Shinall
Journal of Palliative Medicine 2019 March 13

BACKGROUND: Earlier palliative care consultation is associated with less intensive medical care and improved quality outcomes for patients with cancer. However, there are limited data about how the timing of palliative care affects utilization among noncancer patients exposed to palliative care consultation.

OBJECTIVE: Comparison of health care utilization for hospice decedents who received early versus late palliative care.

DESIGN: A retrospective cohort study utilizing hospital and hospice administrative databases.

SETTING/SUBJECTS: Patients with cancer and noncancer diagnoses who received specialty palliative care consultation before dying at a local hospice.

MEASUREMENTS: Comparing early (>90 days before death) versus late (<90 days before death) palliative care, outcome measures included intensive care unit (ICU) utilization and hospice length of stay (LOS).

RESULTS: Of 233 hospice decedents in 2014 who had palliative care referrals, 36 (15.4%) had early and 197 (84.5%) had late referrals. Nearly half of the patients had a noncancer hospice diagnosis. Only 6% of the early group used the ICU in the last month of life, whereas 56% of the late group did. Patients receiving early palliative care had a longer median hospice LOS than those with late palliative care (138 days vs. 8 days).

CONCLUSIONS: Early palliative care appears to reduce intensive medical care and increase hospice LOS for patients with a variety of end-stage diseases.


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